Spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a rare, abnormal tangle of blood vessels on, in or near the spinal cord. Untreated, spinal AVM can permanently damage your spinal cord.
Oxygen-rich blood normally enters your spinal cord through arteries, which branch into smaller blood vessels (capillaries). Your spinal cord uses oxygen from the blood in your capillaries, and this oxygen-depleted blood then passes into veins that drain blood from your spinal cord to your heart and lungs. In a spinal AVM, your blood passes directly from your arteries to your veins, bypassing capillaries.
This disruption in blood flow causes cells in your spinal tissues to deteriorate or die. The arteries and veins in a spinal AVM can rupture, which results in bleeding in the spinal cord (hemorrhage). Sometimes, the AVM enlarges and compresses the spinal cord.
Spinal AVM can go undiagnosed unless you begin experiencing signs and symptoms. The condition can be treated with surgery to halt or possibly reverse some of the spinal damage.
April 25, 2014
- Rubin MN, et al. Vascular diseases of the spinal cord. Neurologic Clinics. 2013;31:153.
- Eisen A. Disorders affecting the spinal cord. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. Which cerebral vascular malformations require neurologic and/or neurosurgical consultation? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Arteriovenous malformations and other vascular lesions of the central nervous system fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.4.gov/disorders/avms/detail_avms.htm. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Ropper AH, et al. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3639296&searchStr=progressive+supranuclear+palsy. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Chaudhary N, et al. Endovascular treatment of adult spinal arteriovenous lesions. Neuroimaging Clinics of North America. 2013;23:729.
- Lanzino G (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 27, 2013.
- Lanzino G, et al. Onyx embolization of extradural spinal arteriovenous malformations with intradural venous drainage. Neurosurgery. 2012;70:329.